Agricultural growth not affected by COVID-19, says government
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday said that the agriculture sector remains unaffected even as India is under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking at a press conference, Tomar said the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government has always prioritized the agriculture sector, adding that there was no shortage of vegetables anywhere in the country. Here are more details.
Tomar said that the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme has benefited farmers greatly. Under the scheme, the Minister said, Rs. 17,986 crore has been disbursed to farmers since March 24 (a day before the nationwide lockdown was implemented). He said there was no shortage of food grains, milk, or vegetables during the lockdown period.
Tomar also said that harvesting has not been impacted by the lockdown, even amid the migrant workers' crisis. Further, he proclaimed that focus on summer crops had resulted in an area sown of 57.07 lakh hectares this year against 41.31 lakh hectares last year.
NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chandra said the agriculture sector will not be impacted by the outbreak and will register a 3% growth rate this year. "Agriculture this year will have at least 3% growth despite the adverse circumstances that are still prevailing," Chandra said, "Markets are intact. Prices have not crashed." Over the past year, the sector had recorded 3.7% growth, he said.
He further said that agriculture will result in at least 0.5% growth rate to the Indian economy. The sector contributes 17% to India's GDP. Chandra said that, in his view, economic forecasts predicting shrinkage in India's growth "will not hold."
Chandra attributed the positive outlook to a number of factors. He said monsoon will be "normal" this year and India's water availability is 40-60% higher than last year. He said the sale of fertilizer in April will be 8% higher than the same period last year (5% higher sales recorded till April 28). He also said that the quality of seeds purchased has improved.
India has set a foodgrain production target of 298.3 million tonnes for the 2020-21 fiscal against 291.95 MT in 2019-20 and 285.20 MT in 2018-19. Tomar also highlighted the steps India had taken to help farmers during the lockdown, listing the exemptions for the agriculture sector, and highlighting government platforms such as e-NAM, Kisan Rath App, and the All India Agri Transport Call Centre.